Cyclist Wins Claim For Pothole Lane Injuries


The Law Of... claiming for dodgy roads

Travelling to work one rainy morning, a Simpson Millar client sustained injury when the front wheel of his bike hit a pothole, throwing him to the ground. Lisa Wright, a Personal Injury Associate with Simpson Millar, handled the resulting claim and here takes a look at the case and the perils of poorly maintained road surfaces.

The Law Of... claiming for dodgy roads

Pulverised by a Pothole

It was through heavy rain and a considerable amount of surface water that Lisa's client rode his bike to work, early that fateful June morning. Travelling along the lane that led to the hotel where he was employed, and with visibility reduced due to the severity of the rainfall, he collided with the pothole, upending himself from the bicycle and impacting upon the road with a crunch.

Managing to get himself into work, where he reported the accident to his duty manager, it wasn't until the next day that he sought medical attention, the pain down his right side having become too much to bear.

He was x-rayed and prescribed painkillers by his GP, but the problems continued. Unable to work for 6 months, he eventually lost his job.

Who is Responsible for a Pothole in the Road?

As is often reported in the news, cyclists and motorists rarely see eye to eye on matters of the road, but one thing they can find some common ground on is the hazard of potholes. For the driver, a pothole can be damaging to their car. For the cyclist, it can not only damage the bike, but – as in this case – themselves as well.

In around 90% of cases, responsibility for repairing potholes – and maintaining road surfaces in general – lies with the local council. The exceptions are trunk roads, such as most motorways, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Highways Agency; private roads and unadopted roads.

In the event of a claim for an injury sustained on the highways of the UK, accountability has to be ascertained and the first port of call will usually be the local authority, who will be able to confirm whether the road is publicly maintained or not.

Unable to Establish Responsibility

In the case of our client, establishing a defendant proved to be a little more complex. The local council advised that the area where the accident occurred was privately owned, and further investigations found it to be registered to a private company, the last known address of which dated back to 1982.

With correspondence going unanswered and the very real possibility that the company had ceased trading over the course of the previous 20 years, the hopes of successfully pursuing the claim were beginning to look less feasible.

This all changed though, when it came to light that responsibility for the road actually lay with the hotel where the client had been working at the time of the accident.

Failing in its Statutory Duty

A claim was made, citing that injuries to the right shoulder and ribcage, along with damages to bike, expenses and loss of earnings were caused by the hotel's negligence and a failure in its statutory duty, specifically in relation to:

  • Failing to maintain the road at a reasonable level so it was permitted to become and remain a danger
  • Failing to take the appropriate measures to inspect, maintain and repair the road surface
  • Failing to warn the claimant of defects in the road, via signs, notices, or barriers
  • Allowing the road to present a foreseeable risk of injury to the claimant while lawfully using it
  • Exposing the claimant to a foreseeable risk of injury, the presence of which was known or should have been known

Subsequent legal wrangling was dealt with through the hotel's third party insurers.

Making a Personal Injury Claim

If you have had an accident which has resulted in injury, due to a pothole or an otherwise badly maintained and hazardous road surface, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

With a 3 year limitation period in place for personal injury claims, you must have started your claim within this timeframe, which expires either 3 years from when the accident took place, or 3 years from when the resulting injuries were discovered or diagnosed. In the case of a child, the limitation doesn't begin until their 18th birthday and for adults unable to look after their own affairs the time limit doesn't apply.

It is always advisable to make a claim as close to the accident as possible, to ensure that it remains fresh in the minds of any witnesses you may need to rely upon.

One Satisfied Client

Lisa Wright, on behalf of her client, made a Part 36 offer to the hotel's insurers. This enabled her to put pressure on the defendant to settle the claim, setting out the costs and consequences that refusal to make a reasonable settlement would invoke. The hotel settled for £3,000, resulting in a hugely appreciative client, who said:

"I am very grateful for the job Simpson Millar has done and I have been happy with them not only throughout the process, but also for the result they achieved. I am delighted with the settlement of my claim."

"I would like to thank Lisa Wright and the Simpson Millar team for an excellent job and hope they can go on to help more people like me."

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